". . . There are two varieties of the cocoa-tree cultivated in Venezuela, known as El Criollo and El Trinitario, respectively, the former of which, though not so prolific nor as early fruiting as the latter, is yet superior to it in size, color, sweetness, and oleaginous properties of the fruit, and in the fact that it always finds ready sale, while the latter is often dull or neglected. The difference in price of the two varieties is also marked, the former being quoted at $28 to $30 per fanega (110 pounds), while the latter commands approximately half that price.
" While coffee can be successfully cultivated under a temperature of 60 degrees F., the cocoa-tree, for proper development and remunerative crops, requires a temperature of 80 degrees F. ; hence the area of the cocoa belt is comparatively restricted, and the cocoa-planter presumably has not to fear the fierce competition that he has encountered in the cultivation of cotton and coffee. Besides the condition of temperature above stated, this crop needs a moist soil and humid atmosphere, and so the lands along the coast of the Caribbean sea, sloping from the mountain-tops to the shore, bedewed by the exhalations of the sea and irrigated by the numerous rivulets that course down the valleys, are found to be, in all respects, well adapted to the profitable cultivation of cocoa. And while the lands in the interior possessing facilities for irrigation may be said to be equally as good for the purpose, yet the absence of roads, and the consequently difficult transportation of produce on the backs of donkeys over rugged mountain paths, materially reduce the profits on the crop before it reaches the market.
"A cocoa plantation is set in quite the same manner as an apple-orchard, except that the young stalks may be transplanted from the nursery after two months' growth. No preparation of the soil is deemed necessary, and no manures are applied. The young trees are planted about fifteen feet equidistant, which will accommodate two hundred trees to the acre. Between rows, and at like spaces, are planted rows of the Bucare, a tree of rapid growth, that serves to shade the soil as well as to shield the young trees from the torrid sun. Small permanent trenches must be maintained from tree to tree throughout the entire length of the rows, so that, at least once in the week, the stream, descending from the mountains, may be turned into these little channels and bear needful moisture to trees and soil. At the age of five years the plantation begins to bear fruit, and annually yields two crops, that ripening in June being termed the crop of San Juan, and that maturing at Christmas being known as the crop of La Navidad. The average age to which the trees attain, under proper care, may be estimated at forty years, during which period it will give fair to full crops of fruit; but of course it must be understood that, as in our fruit-orchards, a new tree must be set from time to time to replace one that may be decayed or blighted. After careful inquiry it may be safely stated that the average crop of the cocoa plantation at ten years of age, and under a proper state of cultivation, will amount to five hundred or six hundred pounds per acre.
"The fruit or seed of the cocoa, in form, size, and color, is quite similar to the almond. These seeds, to the number of sixty or eighty,1 are encased in a pod,
1 This statement is incorrect. The average number is about twenty-five; the maximum number would not exceed forty. It is curious to note the different statements of those who are regarded as authorities on the subject. Dampier ("A New Voyage round the World") says there are commonly near a hundred; Thomas Gage ("New Survey of the West Indies") says there are from thirty to forty; Colmenero ("A Curious Discourse upon Chocolate ") says ten or twelve; Oexmelin ("The History of Adventures ") says ten to fourteen. The French officer, in his "Natural History of Chocolate," says (and says truly), "I can affirm, after a thousand trials, that I never found more nor less than twenty-five. Perhaps, if one were to seek out the largest shells in the most fruitful soil and growing on the most flourishing trees, one might find forty kernels; but as it is not likely one would ever meet with more, so, on the other hand, it is not probable one would ever find less than fifteen except they are abortive, or the fruit of a tree worn out with age in a barren soil, or without culture." which, except in color, is the counterpart of a young muskmelon, being elongated and ribbed in the same manner. Its color, when green, is like that of the egg-plant, but, on ripening, it assumes a reddish hue. A peculiarity of the cocoa is that it bears fruit "from the ground up," the trunk yielding fruit as well as the branches. Upon ripening, the pods are gathered from the trees and heaped in piles on the ground, where they are left for some days to ferment, after which they burst open, when the seed must be shelled out. After a light exposure to the sun, during which time great care must be taken to protect them from the rain, they are sacked and ready for market.
"The cocoa-trees, when very young, require to be carefully watched, to protect them from the ravages of the borers, which, instead of entering the trees near the ground or in the roots, as is the case with the borers in our peach-orchards, burrow under the bark of the trunk and girdle the trees. After a few years of care all danger from this source is removed. The only disease to which the tree is subject is la mancha, which is an affection similar to the pear blight in the United States, though not so obstinate and fatal, and which, by promptly cutting away the diseased bark, may be usually arrested. The squirrels and woodpeckers also must be guarded against, as they are very fond of the young fruit. It happens too, though rarely, that a period of ten or twelve days of continuous rainy and cloudy weather ensues, in which event much of the fruit is blighted and falls from the trees. These, it is believed, comprise all the casualties to which the tree and the green crop are exposed; but which, when compared with the usual contingencies that affect our own orchards and fruit crops, may not be considered more damaging or discouraging.